Meetings are mostly seen as a waste of time by most participants. Nevertheless, they seem to be necessary. To spare the travel, online meetings are a welcome compromise. However, they bring their own problems as the communi­cation bandwidth decreases when people are not in the same room.

Video group chat is often declared the best option for online meetings, since it provides the highest bandwidth communication. Personally, I consider the faces of the other people not important in technical meetings. For presentations a visual channel is a good idea, but this is one-to-many. For discussions this is not helpful. What is helpful is a moderator, who can use his voice for his job. In general vocal discussion compared to textual chat helps to keep everybody attentive. So a group call (Skype etc) is the base for online discussions which should finish as soon as possible.

Now, the killer tool for such meetings is Etherpad. Etherpad provides a simple text page, which everbody can edit simultanously. Here is the process I champion:

  1. The meeting starts with a document containing the agenda. The agenda foremost contains issues, which have to be decided.

  2. During the discussion everybody rewrites the agenda into a protocol of the decisions made.

  3. Approve protocol and archive it. End of meeting.

This augmentation has multiple advantages:

Still, this process does not solve the problem that nobody feels responsible afterwards. I do not know a technical solution to this social problem. My tip is to write the name of exactly one responsible person right next to each action item.

© 2012-05-15